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Red Pork Tamales topped with sour cream, cilantro and hot sauce.
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5 from 6 votes

Pork Tamales

Step by step directions on how to make Authentic Pork Tamales. Tender shredded pork is coated in a homemade red Chile sauce and surrounded in a melt in your mouth masa dough.
Prep Time4 hrs
Cook Time6 hrs
Total Time10 hrs
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Diet: Gluten Free
Servings: 70 tamales
Calories: 89kcal
Author: Serene


  • Large Steamer Pot


  • 70 corn husks


  • 4 lb pork butt (shoulder) bone in preferred
  • 1 yellow onion halved
  • 1 bulb garlic top cut off
  • 2 bayleaves dried
  • 2 tsp salt
  • tsp ground cumin
  • tsp ground black pepper

Red Chile Sauce

  • 3 guajillo peppers stems and seeds removed
  • 3 ancho Chile peppers stems and seeds removed
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • onion from pork broth cut off ends
  • garlic bulb from pork broth squeeze out the cloves
  • 1 cup pork broth
  • 1 cup Chile broth from soaking peppers


  • 8 ounces lard
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 lbs masa harina corn flour
  • 1 cup red chile sauce recipe included



  • Cut the pork into 2 inch chunks and add to a large pot (5 qt). Don’t remove any of the fat or the bone. Add all of the pork and bone into the pot.
  • Cover with water.
  • Add in the onion, garlic, bayleaves, salt, cumin and pepper. Stir to combine.
  • Turn heat to medium and bring to a boil.
  • After several minutes of boiling, using a spoon, remove the impurities from boiling the bone (it will look like foam on the top of the liquid). If no bone, skip this step.
  • Cover and reduce heat to medium low and let simmer for 2-3 hours until meat is cooked through and easily shreds.
  • Remove the meat from the pot to a cutting board and shred. Then place in a large dish or bowl.
  • Remove the onion and garlic from the pot and set aside.
  • Remove the bone and discard.
  • Place a strainer over a large bowl/pitcher, and pour the broth through the strainer to remove all other debris from the broth
  • Pour broth back into the pot through a fine mesh strainer to remove all small bits remaining. Set the broth aside. 

Red Chile Sauce

  • Place the chiles in a medium size pot and cover with water. 
  • Cook over medium heat to bring to a boil.
  • Cover and remove from heat. Let the chiles sit for 10-15 minutes until completely softened.
  • Remove the chiles and place in a blender, add cumin and salt, add in the onion and garlic from the pork. Pour in the broth from soaking the chiles and the broth from the pork.
  • Blend until sauce is completely smooth. (Be careful due to the hot liquids)
  • Pour one cup of the red Chile sauce into the shredded pork and stir to combine.


  • Add the lard to a large mixing bowl. 
  • Mix on high speed using a hand mixer for 3-4 minutes, this will whip the lard, it will have a light fluffy texture. 
  • Add in the salt and baking powder.
  • Pour in the masa harina.
  • Using your hands combine the dry ingredients into the fat until it is a coarse meal texture.
  • Pour the remaining Chile sauce (be careful if it is still hot since you are mixing with your hands).
  • Mix this together with your hands until incorporated.
  • Pour in several cups of the pork broth and continue mixing with your hands until well combined. (When adding the broth, ensure that it is warm, not hot to burn your hands but we want the masa to be a nice warm temperature. If the masa is too hot it will slip off of the corn husks when you attempt to spread it. If needing to use extra chicken broth, take the time to heat up the broth before adding it in. )
  • Continue adding broth as needed until the masa is smooth and spreadable. It shouldn’t feel dry. It will feel like creamy mashed potatoes. (if you run out of pork broth, this is where the extra chicken broth comes in handy!)


  • Two hours before assembly time add the corn husks to a large bowl and cover with water. If needed place a pot lid on top to press them down into the water.
  • Prepare steamer pot by adding water to the bottom and placing the steamer rack on top.
  • Remove the corn husks from the water. Discard the water. Lay the husks on a clean kitchen towel.
  • Taking one corn husk, pat it dry on a towel to remove excess water. Lay it down with the smooth side facing up (the side with more pronounced ridges will be facing down).
  • Scoop about 2-3 tablespoons of the masa dough onto the wider end of the husk and smooth out about 3/4 up the length of the corn husk (tools that work well are the back of a spoon, a small silicone spatula, or a plastic child’s knife). Smooth out a nice even layer of approximately 1/4 inch thick over the widest end of the corn husk, leaving 1/2 an inch on one side empty (this helps when it comes time to roll) and the narrow end of the husk empty. 
  • Spoon approximately 2 tablespoons of the pork meat onto the masa dough, a little off centered, towards the side that is completely covered with masa.
  • Fold over the corn husk, to the side with no dough, then slightly tuck the end to seal the masa trapping the filling inside.
  • Then fold over the bottom (the narrow empty end of the husk). There is no need to tie them..it takes too much time..
  • Place the first tamale into your steamer pot directly in the center laying fold side down.
  • Then continue assembling the tamales and placing them around the first tamale facing up, almost like building a campfire pyramid shape. 
  • Once all tamales have been made and are in the steamer cover them with some additional corn husks (this helps prevent condensation from dripping onto them during steaming). Then place the lid on top.
  • Heat over medium heat until you can hear the water boiling in the pot. Then turn the heat to low and continue steaming for 1.5-2 hours.
  • To check the done-ness of the tamales, remove one from the pot and remove the husk, if the masa dough removes easily from the husk without coming apart, or being too soft, then they are done. When tasting, if the masa is still a bit grainy in texture, continue steaming until it has a smooth texture.



  • Masa: this is referring to the dry masa harina, or corn flour. My favorite brand is Maseca. There are two kinds, Maseca for Tamals, and a regular Maseca corn flour. The Maseca corn flour comes in yellow or white, either will work. The Masa for Tamals, has a larger grain size, but personally I like the smoothness I get from the regular corn flour. 
  • Lard: this is the fat that is used to create the masa dough. Other options if needed would include: unsalted butter, shortening, cooking oil (minus olive oils due to heavy flavoring).
  • Pork: pork shoulder, or pork butt, bone-in is the best option. The bone is great for helping to create a nice broth, which we will be using. If you are unable to get a bone in, you could try using pig trotters, or ham hocks to help get some bone broth.
  • Save everything from making the pork. The onion and the garlic will be used in the chile sauce. The broth will be used to make the masa dough. 
  • This recipe is easiest to do in 2 days. Using one day to prepare meat and the Chile sauce. Then the second day to assemble the tamales. 
  • Assembly will be when you want someone to help out! 
  • Have some extra chicken broth on hand if needed for making the masa, depending on how much water you can fit in your pot with the pork, you may need a little extra liquid. 
  • If you are doing this in 2 days, don’t mix the chile sauce with the pork, just store everything separately. Then add the pork to a skillet, heat over low and stir in the chile sauce. Warm the broth, don’t remove any of the fat from the broth from it cooling, use it all. And warm the chile sauce also, they all need to be warm for making the masa dough.
  • Storage & Freezing: store tamales in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Or store in the freezer in a freezer safe container for 3-4 months. To reheat steam the tamales for 20-30 minutes until warmed through. 


Serving: 1tamal | Calories: 89kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 16mg | Sodium: 225mg | Potassium: 167mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 629IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 41mg | Iron: 1mg